“Sundance is the fucking shit. I love being here.”
So said Kristen Stewart in closing her acceptance speech Thursday night after receiving a Visionary Award from the Sundance Film Festival. It was a mic drop moment if there ever was one, and it was timed perfectly, arriving during the Sundance Institute’s fundraising gala that served as a starry kickoff for this year’s edition. The official title of the event is the Opening Night Gala: Celebrating 40 Years Presented by Chase Sapphire, and it went down at the DeJoria Center in nearby Kamas, Utah.
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At 33 years old, Stewart is already a Sundance veteran who has had 10 films screen at the festival over the years, and she’s back this year with two more: Sam and Andy Zuchero’s Love Me opposite Steven Yeun, and Rose Glass’ Love Lies Bleeding. The Chanel muse, wearing a two-piece suit by the French fashion house, took a quick walk down memory lane to recall the first time she ever visited Park City and explain why the vibes were so powerful.
“I really love this festival — my whole life I have loved this festival. I came here for the first time 20 years ago, I realized today. I could barely speak English when spoken to. I got my first pair of Ugg boots, and I actually got to be where the cool kids were. I knew that in my bones this was just a place full of yes, in a world full of no. I couldn’t even understand why yet, but I knew it and I know that I was right,” said Stewart, who also said the honor arrived perfectly timed as well. “Words were only as meaningful as the people and places that give them to you and to be accepted by the community I have admired so personally, it is so lovely and enlivening. It is so well-timed. I need this.”
Stewart accepted the trophy at a program that also saw honors go to Christopher Nolan, Past Lives filmmaker Celine Song, The Eternal Memory director Maite Alberdi and philanthropist and Sundance board chair Pat Mitchell. The event raised funds and awareness for the Sundance Institute and its year-round work uplifting global independent voices through artist programs, grants and other initiatives. There was a near Panic Room reunion as Stewart was followed to the stage by Jodie Foster, who had the honors of presenting an award to Alberdi. (“Love her,” Foster said, “what an incredible artist.”)
Jesse Eisenberg, who also has two films in the festival this year, turned up to honor Stewart, his friend and co-star in several projects including Adventureland. “Kristen is one of these rare performers where she is so committed, so authentic, so feeling that you almost want to make sure she’s OK at the end of the day,” Eisenberg said. “It’s this kind of painstaking feeling that she brings to everything which is such a gift for audiences because it gives us a real peek into the breadth of our collective experiences.”
He then introduced a clip reel that featured many of Stewart’s big-screen performances, including Spencer, Seberg, On the Road, The Twilight Saga, The Runaways, Into the Wild and more. During her speech, Stewart offered up some advice for actors in the room to “find you a brother-in-law who can edit because he will make you look so much cooler than you are if you ever get honored at Sundance.”
Here is her honoree reel (Kristen says was helped by her brother in law). Followed by a standing ovation. pic.twitter.com/RX7QfEbb5F
— Chris Gardner (@chrissgardner) January 19, 2024
She then turned her attention to the hustle of making art, particularly independent film, something that has been on her mind lately. As she recently told Variety, she doesn’t want to act in any more projects until she can get her feature directorial debut, The Chronology of Water, financed and made. Though she didn’t mention the title from the podium, she did speak about the intense drive it takes to make films.
“It’s an irrational and illogical endeavor to make these movies that are so impossible to make and it’s tropey and kind of embarrassing and weird to go on about how hard it is to make a movie, but everyone here actually gets that,” she explained. “Things only happen by the sheerest most illogical, insane, monstrous force of will towards something that should not work. But if it does, it could be absolutely amazing, and you could wind up at Sundance.”
Stewart noted how, “People love to say, like, ‘Oh, it’s a miracle that this movie got made; it’s so magic.’ I’m, like, no. Someone crazy forced it. They were, like, it must happen and I will not take no for an answer.”
That’s her headspace at the moment. “I really clearly want to go make a movie. That’s obviously where I’m at,” she continued. “And there’s nothing like being uniquely primed by timing and circumstance to accept cosmic messages and being given this award tonight. I’m just so invigorated by this place and the acknowledgment to go do what I need to do. Thank you for lighting a fire under my ass and letting me know my whole life implicitly and explicitly that it is possible.”
“Sundance is the fucking shit. I love being here.” Visionary Award honoree Kristen Stewart who says she’s invigorated byn#Sundance and itching to make a movie (her feature directorial debut). pic.twitter.com/wQ0Igv5qVv
— Chris Gardner (@chrissgardner) January 19, 2024
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